Bitterleaf Teas 2017 Secret Garden is raw puerh from a remote tea garden in Manzhuan. It’s a bit of an oddball cake in that the 2016 and 2018 pressings of this cake are from Yiwu, but Bitterleaf says that this pressing shares much of the same essence as the 2016 one. This cake comes in at $0.48 per gram, so it’s in the more in the mid-budget, but still attainable.
Breaking the cake
The dry leaves aroma of this puerh are pretty standard and non-descript in my opinion. It’s your usual floral smelling puerh that doesn’t really distinguish itself from many of the other cakes I own, but after a quick rinse it’s a whole other story. I’m not getting any real floral notes off of it, but it instead has an incredible fruity smell. Strawberry is the most up front note, but also some citrus-y orange and sour apple aromas are in there. There are some lower notes as well, mostly a peaty, mossy smell.
The cake is fairly loosely compressed and breaks apart nicely and easily. I am using 3.85 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan with 90°C water. Infusions start at 5 seconds and increase by 5 each time.
From the very first sip this tea is thick and brothy. The main tasting note for me is damp wood and moss. It very much reminds me of the way a forest smells after a summer rain. The second and third infusion continue to thicken up and I am getting a little bit of a more tart taste that lines up with the sour apple smell I was getting off the wet leaves. The tea goes back and forth between being slightly bitter and slightly sweet with each sip, but never too strong one way or the other. The aftertaste is very long lasting and it leaves a nice cooling menthol like effect in the back of your throat.
While Secret Garden already was thick and brothy from the beginning, it just keeps getting more and more so with every infusion. It’s ridiculously savoury and the mouthfeel is just fantastic. The tea is gaining a bit of ground on the higher notes as the apple taste becomes more clear during the mid-point of this session. The slight bitterness from the first few infusions is gone and the tea is sweet and silky smooth. I am getting a touch of a mineral taste in the far background and some astringency during the aftertaste but not too much of either.
For infusions nine through eleven I am starting to get the sweet strawberry taste that I was initially smelling. This is short lived though and all fruity flavours are gone from the tea by the thirteenth infusion. The remainder of the flavour drops off quickly here as well, although the body remains thick and the sweet but astringent aftertaste stays strong until the very end. I called it quits at the sixteenth infusion, although I could have finished the session a few cups earlier without missing out on much.
Bitterleaf Teas 2017 Secret Garden has a really lovely taste, but the star of the show is the mouthfeel. This tea has one of the thickest textures I have ever had from any tea and it makes for a really interesting session. At $95 USD for a cake you might want to try out a sample before committing to a full cake but if you like a good thick tea with an easy drinking but satisfying taste, then this will probably be right up your alley.